Google has committed to assisting one million UK small businesses stay open by helping them become more visible online.
The technology giant said it would help businesses recover from the economic slump of the coronavirus lockdown by offering free mentoring, grants and advertising credits.
As part of the Open for Business initiative, the firm will offer 10,000 hours of free mentoring on online business to small companies and charities, as well as £25 million worth of advertising credits and grants and aid digital skill improvements in 100,000 people.
Any small business can sign up for the package of support from Friday, which has been created alongside small business advice firm Digital Boost.
Google said its commitment was that by the end of 2021, one million small businesses currently lacking an online presence could be found on the web by potential customers.
Google UK managing director Ronan Harris said: “Local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. Like millions up and down the country, we want to help small businesses both survive and thrive.
“Through this programme we’re aiming to upskill SMEs and charities by helping them adapt to operating in a post lockdown environment. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, we want to show that having an online presence can have a transformative impact on offline businesses.”
The scheme will also a series of free webinars launched offering guidance on how to be a successful business online.
Being discoverable online has never been more important, Google said, highlighting a study which found that 90% of people said they had visited a business if it had shared images on Google Search or Google Maps.
The same study also found that 90% of those asked said they were more likely to interact with a business if it had basic information such as a phone number, listed online.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Google announcement was a “great step forward” in helping the economy get back on track
He said: “Our small businesses form the backbone of the British economy, fuelling growth and creating jobs in communities across the country.
“This has been a difficult time for them, and that’s why I am delighted that today Google have announced this plan to help small businesses recover from the crisis. We will all play a part in this national effort to get the UK open for business again safely.
“Google’s initiative to support our smallest firms is a great step forward in getting our economy back on track.”
As well as the new scheme, Google has encouraged the public to support local businesses by writing online reviews with ratings and photos to help spread the word, as well as report if a business listed as temporarily closed on Google is reopening.